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Independence Day – How Old Age is a (New) Number

Movin' up – so goes the definition of old age. Maybe this confirms what you have already observed, and the Society of Actuaries (which also uses Social Security Life Tables) has also calculated. According to Stanford economist John Shoven, the definition of "old" is rising, ridiculously compared to the 1920s, but very interesting, nonetheless. Says Shoven: For women, "old" is approximately age 73, with women transitioning out of middle age at 65. For men, he asserts that "old" is around age 70, with transitioning out of middle age at age 60.  The assumption underlying this are based on "risk of dying" within 1, 2 or 4 years. If it is 1% or less, a person is is middle-aged. Good graphic, and no surprise, it's another document in the litany of advice for deferring Social Security payments until late, late, late, despite the actual behavior in which 42% of men and 48% of women are claiming it at age 62.

Something’s rotten in care of the elderly – what does this week’s KHN tell us?

Do hospitals mismanage support for vulnerable older adults?  And we wonder why people, including doctors, avoid hospitals. We knew that an older adult going into the hospital experiences or departs with an unwanted side effect. Half a million per year acquire C.Difficile in hospitals -- costing $4.8 billion; ICU risk of death is 35% higher for elderly. And MRSA has a 12-month death rate of between 20 and 35% -- with the most vulnerable, you guessed it, the elderly.  But did you know that one-third of hospital patients over age 70 and half of the patients leave the hospital more disabled than when they arrived?  Question raised: what about appointed or actual advocates when elderly patients are admitted – is someone present or appointed by the hospital who will observe care, including vigilance about hand-washing or ICU treatment– perhaps the state-by-state Care Act address this in a future update.

The real elderly are hidden behind demographic murkiness


Silly segmentation strikes again.  You probably didn't think about it if you read about HP's proposed new wristwatch in today's business pages of the NY Times.  Did you know that between 2008 and 2010, sale of watches fell 29% in the 18-24 age group, rose 33% in the 35-44 age group and 104% for those 65 and older?  Okay, no big deal, you say.  NPD Group, keeper of these stats, reports this as though a 6-year age range, a 9 year age range, and a 25+ year age range have comparable purchasing characteristics within the range. Misinterpretation opportunity looms large -- and if you are a watch manufacturer, it may not be time to plan on closing the business within the next 10 years based on whether 'young shoppers' may care.   In fact, it would have been great to ask a few older adults if they'd like HP's proposed wireless watch (with hands!) which could be programmed with canned responses and might have utility -- maybe even expanding the PERS opportunity downward.

Is microhousing a viable alternative to aging poorly in place?


When aging in place is out-of-place.  Aging in place may not be for everyone, as the University of Florida's Stephen Golant noted: 48% of seniors spend more than half their income on housing -- 14% of the 75+ still have mortgages.  Separated by distance from adult children, perhaps they suffer from isolation and poor health and other downsides that Dr. Golant spells out in some detail. He recommends that moving out of one's own home need not be viewed as a tragedy, suggesting options like NORCs or village approaches for shared services, moving in with family members, or moving to a smaller home or condo. 

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